Episode 2: Farewell, Anthology Bar!

By the time I post this, the people at Anthology Bar and Restaurant would have already started cleaning up and packing everything inside the bar. By then, the appliances, tables and chairs, and decorations have been removed, boxed, and moved out. By then, Anthology would become nothing more than an empty warehouse.

It was a guest who informed me last Sunday (November 15) that Anthology would be closed down. He said the owner of the building is planning to reclaim the area in a week or so. Why the owner planned so is something that was never clarified to me.

I learned through the bits of info I found by word of mouth and the Internet that Anthology was already an old watering hole in the Adriatico area in Malate. I heard it was opened about eight years ago as a place for musicians, music lovers, and those who are in for a laid-back night out in Manila.

One blogger described Anthology as “a cozy haven perfect for Gen X’ers… and those particularly belonging to the New Wave and Heavy Metal era”. “Live bands (perform) every night at this popular music bar. It’s a young crowd and the acts are mostly pop, but with occasional folk and OPM (original Pinoy music),” another said.

But perhaps, these changing times have a say as to which stays, which goes, which disappears… and Anthology is one of those that left.
When I started hanging out in Anthology in 2005, I was looking for a quiet place in Malate where I could sip my sip beer and listen to Sting and acoustic music while I laze the night away. Nobody told me about the place; I just sort of stumbled upon it.
I was mesmerized by my first visit in Anthology: the place was adorned with movie posters, rock n’ roll memorabilia, and items such as guitars, an old gas pump, and a pogo stick. There were also pictures of icons such as U2, Marilyn Monroe, and Che Guevarra.
The bar area was just as impressive, with its collection of bottles and a figure of Darth Vader (and his helmet) on display. To the left was the DJ’s booth, boasting of its own massive collection of CDs from the 80’s, 90’s, and probably those from 19-Voltes V. Televisions showing music videos or sports shows were also hanging at several corners of the bar.
The only thing that has left me baffled until now is the wrecked Cessna plane on the second floor. Speaking of which, the second floor was home to Unplugged, a smaller bistro where, I heard, musicians of all genres met and performed. By the time I came around, Unplugged was closed. And then there’s the Cessna plane to ponder about.
I would spend hours listening to the acoustic bands that performed Sting (at my request) and other music at one corner of the room. Many of them would play modern rock, others would belt out ballads, while some opted to play soft music. All of these I immediately found to my liking; these were the music that relaxed me, after all.
Most of the time, I would sit in one corner or at the counter and just drink beer or alcopop (like Tanduay Ice and Gilbey’s Premium). When I do get hungry, I would order French fries, siomai, or buffalo wings with my alcohol.
The fries were crunchy and soft in the inside, while the siomai was just enough to whet my appetite. The buffalo wings were spicy and juicy (though they were messy to eat, and the waitresses would encourage me to order rice with it, which I never did). In any case, I ate a little and drank more in Anthology, but those, complimented by the rock n’ roll ditties blasting my eardrums, were satisfying moments.
Come Friday (November 15), I decided to pay my last respects to Anthology. I ordered my usual bottle of Gilbey’s Premium and a serving of the buffalo wings. Gilbey’s is an ordinary alcopop, but for me, it would be the last time that sweet, green liquid would drench my throat in that place. The buffalo wings were as spicy and as juicy as it was before, but it would be the last wings I would partake there.
I regretted not ordering their assorted beer mates, or tasting their cocktails, no matter how common they seemed. I regretted not staying longer, not socializing more, and not drinking in the antique surroundings. I regretted not singing with the bands when they asked me to, or not shuffling through their records and listening to them.
When I passed there last Monday, after my trip to Baguio to visit my sister (who just gave birth to her third daughter), Anthology was indeed closed. The lights are down, and the interior is messed up. Everything that was to be removed seems to be gone. It was really time for them to go.
Anthology was an icon, an enduring symbol of a kind of night-time fun enjoyed by generations, its lively sights and sounds and the wrecked Cessna plane standing as reminders of a bygone era in Malate’s bustling night life.
As I meditate on the demise of Anthology, I can’t help but think how many old places like it stood in Malate, and how many of them were swept away by the changing times. The old watering holes here seem to be fading away, giving way to newer karaoke bars and spas and restaurants.
Despite this new era, I’m still glad that there was one place that I felt at home with. There was at least one place that welcomed a wandering soul such as me, with its loud music and liquor and the ever-imposing Cessna plane.
I raise my glass for you, Anthology. Thanks for the music and the memories.

Credit goes to http://malate.wordpress.com/about/once-upon-a-time-in-malate/ (and to the other websites whose URLs I can’t remember)

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Episode 1: The Food and Wine Ensemble, Matsuri Bayashi!

I’m currently writing this inside Matsuri Bayashi, a small Japanese restaurant along Mabini Street in Malate, Manila. This is obviously the first time I will write about a Japanese restaurant, much more Japanese food, since I’m a rabid fan of the cuisine.

I discovered this place last June, after I roared the night away over karaoke at a nearby karaoke. I thought before I went home I’d have a hot meal and some Japanese sake to keep me pickled.

Matsuri Bayashi is just a hole in the wall place from the outside. When I first saw the place, the only sign that it was a restaurant was the smell of food, a paper lantern, and the names of the dishes (in kanji) posted behind the glass door.

The interior is just as simple. Some of the walls look like it had bamboo parts. To the left were two picture frames (with text written in kanji). I never got the chance to ask what the frames were, though I presume there were names written on them.
To the right near the door was the robata grill, the bar counter, and a TV tuned in most of the time to NHK. There are four tables; two of them were low tables at the far end of the place. Despite the small area, the restaurant gets very crowded, with as much as six people sharing a table plus the bar.

The main man of Matsuri Bayashi is a middle aged Japanese man whom the waitresses call “Master” (or “Mustard”). He personally cooks orders and welcomes guests, all the while cracking jokes and stories (which I don’t understand since he speaks only Japanese).

I’ve learned that Matsuri Bayashi is sort of translated as “festival ensemble”, specifically, an instrumental ensemble that performs during traditional Japanese festivals. And since we’ve mentioned ensembles, Matsuri Bayashi’s menu looks like an ensemble in itself. Matsuri Bayashi’s menu offers light snacks, rice bowl (donburi) meals, roasted and fried meats and seafood, appetizers, noodle dishes, and alcoholic drinks.

  
My meal for the night was oyakodon, chicken with egg and onions over a bowl of hot steamed rice. Oyakodon is usually a home-cooked meal among Japanese, and here the oyakodon is prepared just as it’s supposed to look like – home-cooked. That’s because the meals are cooked and served as you order, so to speak.

The oyakodon is cooked and seasoned with salt and pepper, nothing else (chili powder is available though). The sautéed chicken is lightly salty and juicy, and its sauce, along with the chicken’s juices, seep into the rice, making the rice itself flavorful. Be careful, though, when the rice gets cold it tastes kinda dry.

The udon are simple and quickly made but tasty nonetheless. Three varieties are in their menu – niku udon (white wheat noodles and beef), tanuki udon (udon with very salty tempura batter), and tamago udon (udon with chicken bits and scrambled egg).

Others I tried in my subsequent visits include their onigiri, small but satisfying rice balls with salmon filling, okonomiyaki (which had nori flakes and cabbage, nothing much), takoyaki, and their simple but still filling version of gyudon (beef bowl).

One thing that is impressive with Matsuri Bayashi is the price of their meals. A budget of P150-P200 is enough for a good meal, though you can probably spend as much as P300 for a full meal. One example is their grilled saba (mackerel, P150), combined with a bowl of miso soup (P35), steamed rice (P50), and a long-drawn battle with the saba using just your chopsticks (priceless).

As I mentioned earlier, Matsuri Bayashi also serves alcoholic drinks, and I noticed that many of the patrons come here to drink. They serve beer, sake, shochu (distilled wine), and Korean soju, which you can leave behind and come back for at a later time (they call this system “keep bottle”). This must be why the menu also has barbecues and other fried and roasted beer mates.

The place, in hindsight, isn’t exactly family-oriented, partly because of its small space, but probably because it’s built with drinkers in mind. There’s a lot of dishes to choose from in the menu, but only if you want something with your booze. Ergo: Matsuri Bayashi’s menu houses an ensemble, but it may look like an ensemble for wine drinkers.

All in all, Matsuri Bayashi has a quiet ambience, which makes you feel comfortable and urge you to stay a long time. The food is simple but filling; the service is nice, even though you have to wait for a while; and the experience of eating budget-friendly Japanese food is something to look forward to.

In my most recent visit, I brought along my favorite mascot Kero-chan (of “Card Captor Sakura” fame) to have him photographed onsite. You see, when it comes to food, I believe that “when Kero-chan appears, chaos follows.” Having Kero-chan brought inside an establishment means it has my ultimate approval.

Just as I expected, chaos ensued – the waitresses wanted to kidnap Kero-chan, and then some of the guests were wondering why I was carrying a stuffed flying animal and taking pictures. Don’t worry, I’m not taking pictures to send them to their spouses or anything. And no, you can’t have Kero-chan. Sorry, Bing.

Introduction

I welcome you to my blog, a simple journal about my food adventures. Each entry tells you about the dishes I tried, the drinks I’ve sipped, and the sights and sounds that I drink to.

I’ve always been fascinated with food writing, and how food experts and writers tell about their experiences. I believe that food writing involves sharp taste buds, sharper eyes for detail, and a lot of expertise in the tastes and aromas that distinguish one cuisine from another.

Of course I’m not an expert in food and cooking. At present I’m more of a gourmand, not exactly a gourmet. Still, I get a lot of good experiences and lessons from the food that I sample, and the trips to the places I go to. Everything, after all, is a learning experience; and this is what I hope to share.

With this, I invite you to a journey in the eyes of an amateur foodie, a traveler who loves his food and wine, and loves the experience even more.
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This food journal is dedicated to:

My mother, one of the greatest cooks I’ve met in my life and the next;
My family, from whom I gain my life lessons;
Sam Bautista and JJ Landingin, the ones who christened this blog and gave its name;
Winford Ferrer and JP Bawingan, my “Boys Be” crew;
Eugene Tan, for his delicious misua and chili sauce;
Mitch, for giving me the fuel I need to get this blog started…

And to all the cooks and waitresses of the restaurants that I visited and will visit someday, for all your great work in keeping your guests’ stomachs and hearts happy, light, and satisfied.

Itadakimasu.